Wind turbines in the North Sea were shut down last weekend for a few hours to ensure safe passage for migratory birds, the Netherlands announced Monday, boasting a world first.
The blades of wind turbines located off the villages of Borssele (west) and Egmond aan Zee (north) almost stopped turning for four hours on Saturday as a “massive bird migration” was expected, the Dutch government said. This first stop is part of the pilot phase of a measure that is to be implemented on a regular basis starting this fall.
“This is a world first,” said Dutch Energy Minister Rob Jetten. “Nowhere in the world are offshore wind farms stopped to protect birds during mass migrations,” he continued, quoted in a statement. Wind farm owners will have to reduce the speed of wind turbines to a maximum of two rotations per minute during the expected nighttime peaks, the government said.
At this “very slow” speed, “for us and the birds, it’s almost as if they were completely at a standstill,” Pieter ten Bruggencate, spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, told AFP. Experts are able to predict bird migration two days in advance, which the government says gives the grid operator TenneT time to “ensure the stability of the high-voltage grid. Wind farms under construction and future wind farms will have to comply with the measure, the effectiveness of which will be reviewed continuously, according to the executive.
“Twice a year, in spring and autumn, millions of birds cross the North Sea on certain nights,” said Tim van Oijen of the bird protection organization “Vogelbescherming Nederland”, quoted in the release. Noting the growth in the number of wind farms in the North Sea, he stresses that it is “extremely important that we do this in the most environmentally responsible way possible”.